Naoussa Summer Stew with Crispy Fried Cheese / Mantza
- 2 large eggplants washed, trimmed and cut into 1-inch/2 1/2-cm cubes
- 2 to 3 medium zucchini washed, trimmed and cut into 1-inch/2 ½ -cm cubes
- 1/2 cup extra virgin Greek olive oil divided
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 3 red or green bell peppers seeded and cut into 1-inch/2.5-cm chunks
- 2 sweet red long fleshy pepper, seeded and cut as above
- 2 large tomatoes grated, about 1 ½ to 2 cups
- ½ pound/225 g kefalotyri or firm feta cheese, cut into 1-inch/2.5-cm cubes
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
- 3 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Lightly salt the eggplant and zucchini cubes in a colander and let stand for about a half hour to drain. Do not rinse.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, deep skillet or wide pot over high heat and sauté the onion and peppers for a few minutes, to soften. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate.
Add 3 more tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet and sauté the eggplant and zucchini over high heat until the vegetables are lightly browned and crisp around the edges. Add the onion-pepper mixture back in. Pour in the tomatoes and half a cup water. Cook, half-covered over low heat, until the vegetables are tender and the pan juices thick.
A few minutes before removing the vegetables from the heat, warm a nonstick skillet and add a tablespoon of olive oil, swishing it around to coat the pan. Fry the cheese cubes over high heat for about 1 minute, just for some color. Then, toss the crispy cheese cubes into the pot. Adjust seasoning with salt to taste as well as with paprika and cayenne. Remove from heat and serve on a platter or on individual plates, garnished with a little fresh parsley.